I have no desire to play walking bass. Tips?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by nonohmic, Dec 2, 2022.

  1. nonohmic


    Dec 13, 2005
    ABQ, NM.
    I've been trying to learn a jazz standard a month (some of you may know the website). And in general I'm finding it fantastic; learning a ton about harmony and soloing concepts. And really seeing there is a whole lifetime of study to be had.

    However, I really have zero interest in playing walking bass. I mean I get it, and I can do it well enough. But I have no desire to practice and get better. And the theory concepts I would be learning seem to covered in the soloing aspects.

    My plan to keep engaged in the process is to compose two types of solo for each standard. A melodic solo solo, then a more rhythmic bass line but using soloing concepts.

    Am I selling myself short?
    LowActionHero, EatS1stBassist and JRA like this.
  2. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Well, as a bass player who is explicitly learning jazz standards you MIGHT be.
    Your disinterest will show in your playing.
    What is the purpose of learning standards? What are your goals?
    If you want to play Jazz with others, you had better learn to love walking.

    To learn to love it, you should first scrutinize the reasons for your lack of interest.
    What bout walking lines fails to grab you? If you find them too boring or simple it's
    a good sign that you should dive more deeply into the history and tradition,
    and understand the role in relation to other rhythm section voices.

    I say this as someone who spent 5 years playing " boring, simple " Salsa bass
    and found that diving deeply into the tradition and history
    (and learning the other rhythm section parts)
    made it anything but boring & simple.


    You do you and play what you find interesting
    COYS, dralionux, DirtDog and 30 others like this.
  3. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Captain Obvious here to say that it all depends on what your goals are. What do you want to do with all this knowledge you're gaining? Evidently you don't want to play in a jazz band in which walking bass is expected, so what do you want to do instead? There's much to be said for learning just for the sake of learning, but there's more to be said for learning what you need to learn to get somewhere you want to get.
  4. nonohmic


    Dec 13, 2005
    ABQ, NM.
    I think I need some Captain Obvious, which is why I posted. I guess I am learning for the sake of learning at the moment. And not too sure what I want to play. Maybe I'd like walking bass more if I did it in a group and saw how it supported the band and the soloists. Perhaps it's just not a fun thing to do as a bedroom bassists.

    I was thinking about getting a teacher just to open my eyes a little to the bass world and see what's out there, what's expected of a player etc.

    I could see this helping. Or transcribing the greats and picking up some tricks.

    I also don't think I've found the groove with it yet, rather it's pretty academic to me at the moment.
  5. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    "Transcribe Ray Brown" was the nugget of advice I was given as a youth

    Maybe try something simple like a I - iv -ii -V in C major or a vanilla Rhythm changes
    Come up with 2 variations on a walk, ask yourself which works better and try to understand why...

    Another thing to keep in mind is that walking's not just an algorithm for generating 4 quarter notes per bar. You have to apply ears, taste and understanding to filter the result. A good walking line will be a 4 / 8 / 16 bar phrase whose tension and release matches the push and pull of the head melody. Mathematically grabbing chord tones won't cut it.
  6. nonohmic


    Dec 13, 2005
    ABQ, NM.
    Never thought of it this way before, I've always been focused on getting to the next root. Good stuff thank you
    George Dennis likes this.
  7. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Walking bass is soloing in quarter notes. Yes, you're selling yourself short by not learning it.

    At least in my experience.
    COYS, Avezzano, Scot and 28 others like this.
  8. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Walking with a good drummer to lay a foundation on jazz tunes is fun. Like anything else, it's MUCH more fun in a band context. Then, you get to solo on top of that.

    Get learning/practicing/playing.
    Pacman and nonohmic like this.
  9. nonohmic


    Dec 13, 2005
    ABQ, NM.
    This may be the crux of the matter. Need to get my arse out and play.
  10. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    I can’t effectively solo over the chords if I don’t know the chords.
    Only after I know the chords and the melody/head can I begin to invent any kind of improvised melody/solo.
    I like to practice on ireal and do a chorus of bass then chorus of melody, back’n forth.
    Knowing the chords makes the solos better and knowing how to solo over the chords makes the bass line much more interesting.
    retslock likes this.
  11. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Bootlegger guitars : S.I.T. Strings Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Florida USA
    beat me to it
    Pacman, Ekulati, Tad and 1 other person like this.
  12. If you're practicing walking bass with a metronome or backing tracks that could be the problem, it can be very boring. Trying playing along with an album, EQing out the bass as much as possible, and see if that makes it more fun. I like to play a long with recordings I'm not overly familiar with but songs that I know to better replicate what it's like on a gig.
  13. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I've noticed an issue with classical musicians trying to learn jazz, which might apply to your situation too. In fact, a couple classical players have agreed with my assessment. I call it "fear of sucking." When a proficient player tries to learn jazz, they've already heard it played well, and may even be able to discern good from bad playing. To learn jazz, they have to experience the joy of sucking, for a long time. It takes time to go from awkward walking, to formulaic walking, to creative walking.

    Playing walking bass lines that sound formulaic or boring is a stage, but it's a stage that you can only get past by going through it. Listening to what the great bassists are doing, that's outside of recognizable formulas might give you something to look forward to.

    Admittedly, having gotten reasonably far along in jazz, I rarely practice walking bass any more. The exception is when I've got a stack of charts from my main band, and then I'm working on things like improving my reading chops, and finding the historical groove of each selection. Those charts also function as etudes for improving my technique.

    I find it harder to make walking bass interesting on electric than on upright, but that could be an imbalance in how much I've actually played each instrument -- upright is my main axe. Especially on electric bass, but on upright too, my accompaniments to swing tunes involve walking bass but not exclusively.
  14. ProbablyTooLoud


    Aug 1, 2020
    Absolutely 100% more fun in a band context than home alone.
    jbasedig likes this.
  15. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    One benefit of practicing walking bass (or any accompaniment) in a group setting is time. You can't experience how the bassist influences time in a jazz context without the other players. And that one issue alone might bring some intellectual and technical interest back to developing a good walking bass skill.

    A pianist once describe the bass to me as "the keeper of the quarter note."
  16. mrjim123

    mrjim123 Supporting Member

    May 17, 2008
    Walk, don't run!
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  17. jimmydean


    Mar 14, 2009
    Gigs , Money , Happiness , Roadies , House(s), Lots of Money=Walking Bass Lines !
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  18. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    If you don’t want to walk, there are plenty of genres where that isn’t a part of the skill set you need. Maybe play in a genre that fits your interests better?
    Mike Sorr, Ekulati and Wasnex like this.
  19. Slade N

    Slade N Supporting Member

    May 28, 2005
    portland, or
    Ok, dont then
    Gluvhand and jbasedig like this.
  20. CallMeAl


    Dec 2, 2016
    Ithaca Ny
    Two things that helped me:
    1) working from written transcription. Take the idea of writing lines of the plate for a bit and study the masters. Tons of resources out there, but I really like the Aebersold books since they come with a backing track
    2) iReal pro for backing tracks, better than metronome or drum beat cause it’s closer to a real band and you get to hear bass in relation to the chorded instruments. There’s tons on youtube but IReal is customizable/editable and just more flexible.
    retslock likes this.